Student Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes or objectives are essentially the goals of a study abroad course, or of a non-credit, co-curricular learning experience such as Alternative Break. They define the intended impact, clearly stating what a student should know, think, value, or be able to do as a result of the experience.

In higher education, many learning outcomes are fairly specific to the course discipline and relate to mastery of content knowledge or discipline-specific practices. For example, a possible outcome for an intermediate Spanish language course might be:

Students will be able to correctly use the subjunctive verb form to express opinions, probability, and doubt.


International service-learning can play a strong role in helping students meet those discipline-specific outcomes.  For example, students working with an NGO in Mexico might conduct workshops for adults on the U.S. immigration process. They would prepare written materials in Spanish and practice the subjunctive tense in conversations with native Spanish-speakers. They would hear it spoken in authentic contexts – something difficult to simulate in the classroom environment.

International service-learning might also help faculty to broaden those learning outcomes to include unique knowledge and competencies provided by an international service-learning experience. For example:


Students will be able to correctly use the subjunctive form to express opinions, probability, and doubt.  They will also feel more comfortable conversing with native speakers and develop a better understanding of Mexican perspectives on U.S. immigration policies.

When writing learning outcomes, consider "the 3 M's."  Outcomes should be:

  • Meaningful: How does the outcome support the student’s academic, professional, and/or personal development?
  • Manageable: What is needed to foster the achievement of the outcome? Is the outcome realistic?
  • Measurable: How will you know if the outcome is achieved? What is the assessment method?